DOUBLE STINTS FOR MICHELIN!
After a thunderous start by the Peugeots, whose drivers were really shaking up the lap times, the teams have settled into cruising speed. After dominating the early stages the Peugeot 908 Hdi_FAP's gave way to to the number 2 Audi, whose Capello-Kristensen-McNish driver line-up ended the third hour leading from the number 7 Gene-Minassian-Villeneuve Peugeot 908. The number 9 Peugeot of Zonta-Montagny-Klien was lying third. In the LMP2 class the number 34 Porsche RS Spyder with Van Merkesteijhn at the wheel was leading the way. In GT1 the 009 Aston Martin was bowling along in front with the Salo-Melo-Bruni Ferrari F430 GT leading the GT2 class.
So Michelin had the lead in all four classes, much to the delight of Michelin's 4-wheel competition manager Matthieu Bonardel. " We're quite happy for the time being, " he said. " We're keeping a close eye on the double stints the prototypes are doing. The Ferraris and Corvettes are also double-stinting in GT1 and GT2, so things are panning out the way we expected. "
Are the track conditons as good as you anticipated ? " They are pretty tough, but that's always the case at the start of the race. There isn't a lot of grip because there isn't much rubber down yet. The teams are upping the pace and the grip is not what it might be. The tyres are wearing because it's pretty slippery. But the cars are double-stinting, so that's a good sign. Still, it's worth noting the large number of micro-punctures caused by stones and debris on the track after the various offs. Normally that type of thing happens later in the race, after nightfall, so it's a little bit of a setback. Punctures of that kind are picked up by the sensors and there's no safety issue, but it will have some effect on strategy. "
They took off in warm sunshine - what effect is that likely to have on tyre performance ?
" We're in the 30-degree zone, just like first qualifying on Wednesday evening. For the time being the teams are using the medium or medium-hard tyres. In terms of performance it's very satisfying to see that Michelin is leading the way in all of the different classes where we are supplying identical cars to our competitors, "